Guideline # 5 for a Healthy Relationship

Written by on July 9, 2012 in On Relationships

Guideline # 5 : It’s all about you.

I know how selfish that sounds and it’s not what you think. All of your relationships are yours and that makes them all about you.

In each relationship there are really two relationships, the relationship you have with the other person-that’s one relationship and the relationship the other person has with you-that is the other one.

You are only responsible for the first one: the relationship you have with the other person. It is your relationship, your perception, your emotions, your passions, your experience.  The person you are sharing it with may be having completely different and opposing emotions, perceptions, passions and ultimately a different experience. That is not your concern.

You have absolutely no power over the other person’s perceptions and emotions. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea that we have no power over other people but switch that to yourself and see that the other person in the relationship does not have power over your passions, perceptions and emotions. Your reactions belong to you. That doesn’t mean you aren’t affected and impacted by the other person; you are and will always be, but how you respond, the filter through which you view your life, the unique way you process emotions are yours, alone. Your thoughts about the other person are reflections of your unconscious thoughts you have about yourself. This can be quite revealing.

Here is an example from my own marriage.

For years I complained that Aaron didn’t talk. He didn’t share his feelings, his thoughts and ideas. He was often distant and withdrawn. I tried every tactic I could conjure up (I am very creative) to get him to open up to me, to no avail. In fact, the more I tried the more he pulled away. All I could see was how he would not engage me.

When I used this guideline the whole issue turned itself around. I decided to see if I was the one being distant and unengaged. My first response was NO. Absolutely not. I was completely different from Aaron. I was open, demonstrative, talkative and engaging. Then I looked beyond the obvious and asked myself this important question: If I was the one who was not being open then how might that be? I stopped looking outside of me at Aaron and began looking inside at my behavior. What I found was shocking.

Yes, it was true according to my perceptions that Aaron was not talkative and felt distant and uninterested in me and my life. But. . .I was withholding, not sharing my feelings, hopes and dreams with him at all. In fact, upon deep examination I found that I had been PUSHING Aaron away! I was so busy trying to force a particular response from him that I was ignoring the natural response I was getting. I did not feel ashamed about this revelation, I felt empowered. This was something I could change. It took a little time to refocus and stop looking for the answer outside of me and searching inside instead but it in time and with practice I learned.

It is normal for most of us to project our own behaviors onto another person. (How else could I have seen parts of myself that were hidden from me?) But projecting is only useful if you recognize it and see yourself in the other person.

That was the hard part. Here is where it gets fun.

Sometimes Aaron would accuse me, blame me or do other things that I took offense at. I realized very quickly that it was not about me but about him. If he said, “Why is everything in this house so chaotic all the time?” instead of taking it personal I would remind myself that he was feeling chaotic inside himself and was projecting onto me, not to hurt me but to be able to see it for himself. I would make some remark about chaos being a part of life’s rhythms and I was no longer invested in his reaction. If he accused me of being sloppy I knew that in some aspect of his own life he was sloppy or had been sloppy. It helped me immensely to let him have his emotions, reactions etc and know that they were his.  I was able to give him the space to be because I had given myself the same space. If my stuff is all about me then his stuff is all about him. It’s that simple but it will transform your relationship when applied.

Understanding Projection

I learned something important about projection from the mythologist Joseph Campbell. In my own words and in my own understanding he said that the unconscious mind projects its unconscious behaviors, thoughts, ideas and talents onto someone outside of itself.  Once the behavior etc. is effectively seen in someone outside of yourself you can know, see and comprehend it with the conscious mind. This allows us to modify behaviors and change belief patterns, or develop skills and talents we were previously unaware of. (The unconscious creates awareness by projecting.) Sometimes you can get stuck believing your own projections rather than recognizing that the only way to see yourself clearly is to see yourself in someone else. Here is an image that might help.

So, enjoy your projections and you will learn more about yourself than you ever dreamed possible. By following guideline # 5 and recognizing that it really is all about you, your power to change your relationships is returned to its rightful owner:

You!

 

 

 

 

Guideline # 4

Guideline # 3

Guideline # 2

Guideline # 1

Other Resources and Suggested Reading:

Mythos I: Lectures of Joseph Campbell

The Works of Byron Katie

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